Maryland Lyme disease study draws controversy

Controversy is brewing in Maryland over a study on Lyme disease.

Hundreds of local families volunteered for the government study, but they say they weren't given the full truth about the dangerous effects of pesticides that would be used on their yards.

According to the CDC, Lyme disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks.

"We have to be very careful wherever we go. We have to be very careful how we maintain our home," Glenwood resident Veronika Carella says.

Carella's children have a heightened sensitivity to pesticides. Exposure could impair their ability to think, weaken their immune system or set off a severe asthma attack. So when the CDC and the state health department invited her to participate in the study, she got a little worried.

"It has caused our children to get sick to the point where we had to immediately take them for medical care," Carella explains. "So yes, it does concern us when the area is sprayed."

While she didn't sign up for it, Carella worries that when her kids come home from college they might walk by the properties of people who did.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified the pesticide bifenthrin as a possible carcinogen. The European union recently banned it altogether.

" I'm not convinced or satisfied that we've been properly informed of what the full impact is of this pesticide," Carella continues.

In Howard, Carroll, Harford and Baltimore counties, 185 families have signed up for the study. Half of them will have the chemical sprayed on the edge of their lawns, the other half will have water sprayed on theirs. Researchers will then compare the results of those two groups.

Dr. Clifford Mitchell, with the Maryland Department of Health, says, "First of all, does it work?...secondly, if it does work in preventing Lyme disease, can it be used as a single low dose?"

Mitchell adds that all participants did get information about the pesticide's toxicity after they expressed interest in the study. At that point, he says, they still had the chance to opt out.

"Some of the material that participants have received, in fact, talk about that question," Mitchell adds.

Furthermore, Mitchell says researchers did their due diligence.

"This is a study that was approved by the human subjects protection boards in this state, in New York, in Connecticut and at the Centers for Disease Control," Mitchell continues.

But, Carella says researchers simply don't know what the long-term effects of the chemical could be, adding that it's not worth the risk.

Carella argues, "It really didn't properly inform people what they were getting involved with."